The nature of IT contracting means that throughout your profession, you're going to inevitably experience rejection. It's not uncommon to work closely with a recruiter and meet with clients in an extensive interview process, only to find out you didn't win the work. Especially for those new to the technology contracting space, this can be disheartening and discouraging. Those who have been around the block a few times know that how you react to such rejection plays a role in how your career will shape out. Here are a few things to do when you don't win the contract you were hoping to get:
Confirm the Opportunity is Closed. Let's take a step back. Do you know for sure that you didn't get the job or are you assuming so because you haven't heard anything recently. Some clients, especially in the public sector, have a long evaluation process. It's possible nobody, including your recruiter, has heard anything yet.
Ask Questions. And do it promptly. As soon as you learn that the contract was awarded to somebody else, pick up the phone to your recruiter and start digging into reasons why. Try to get feedback from both the recruiter's perspective and the client's. Specific questions could be:
Was the contract awarded to someone else? (see #1)
What was the decision based on? (provide examples to help pry for details -- price, qualifications, fit, etc.)
How can I improve for future opportunities? (interview performance, qualifications or training, soft skills)
What was the one thing I did best?
Are there any other open roles I'd be better suited for?
Review Your References. You may get a signal based on your recruiter's feedback that your references weren't as shining as you'd hoped. In this case, review the names you're providing and ensure that you are clear on the information they're sharing with recruiters and clients.
Self-Reflect. Take the feedback you receive and combine it with what you already know (practice self-awareness and be honest with yourself). Could you have been better prepared? Are you applying to jobs out of your league? Could you have been more personable?
Act on the Results. It's one thing to know what you must do but it's another thing to actually do it. Using the feedback you receive, read through your resume, social networks and personal website to make improvements. Also review your skills and create a training plan based on gaps.
Continue to Build Relationships. Just because your recruiter wasn't able to help you land this contract, it doesn't mean they will not have opportunities in the future. Keep working with them (and others) and ensure lines of communication remain open to build relationships and find new opportunities.
Stay Positive. Negativity is a downward spiral that brings nothing productive. The right attitude is crucial in a successful job search and the opposite will quickly spread and make people much less likely to want to work with you.
Whatever your reaction to a lost contract opportunity, never burn bridges. This can happen much more easily than you might think. Letting pride get in the way, refusing any responsibility and blaming the recruiter, or pushing to change a final decision can all affect how willing your staffing agency is to present you for an opportunity in the future. How do you deal with lost contract opportunities? Do you have a specific process, do you ignore them all together, or do react based on each situation? We'd love to hear your feedback and experiences. Please share them in the comments below.